Joey Dee & the Starliters
Born Joseph DiNicola in Passaic, New Jersey on June 11, 1940, Joey Dee formed his first group, The Thunder Trio, while still in high school. While the line-up would change and grow, the core remained Joey Dee, Tony Scuito on drums, and John Yanick on guitar. In 1954, the group placed second on Ted Macks' famed Amateur Hour, augmented by Tony Seragusa's upright bass. At various points, guitarist Vinnie Correo, accordionist Ralph Fazio and piano player Oresti Intorella would spend time in the group at various times.
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A new lead singer, Rogers Freeman, joined the group in 1958 and they set out for their first recording session. Their first single on the obscure Little label was a ballad, "Lorraine", and an uptempo doo wop song, "The Girl I Walk To School". This early single was later bootlegged on the Bonus label, complete with a picture sleeve, when the group was first topping the record charts three years later!
Joey met and recruited David Brigati, lead singer of The Hi-Fives, during a gig at the Boys Club in Lodi, New Jersey. Their first musical collaboration had come with The Hi-Fives, for whom Dee sang background on a few cuts, and who David had recorded with for Decca Records.
At the suggestion of high school friends, The Shirelles, Joey contacted Florence Greenberg of Scepter Records and began working on some new material with staff writer, Luther Dixon. The first single release was a ballad sung by David Brigati, "Face of an Angel". The B-side was the group-led "Shimmy Baby", which led them to work out the "1-2-3 kick, 1-2-3 jump!" routine that would later evolve into the "Peppermint Twist".
In 1959, Joey Dee recognized the potential of the newest fad, a new dance called "The Twist". Along with the Starliters, now composed of Dee, Brigati, drummer Willie Davis and organist Carlton Lattimore, Joey worked out a stage act with some unbeatable dance routines. They were all multi-talented in their own right.
Joey Dee and the Starliters were discovered while working at a nightclub called Oliveri's in Lodi, New Jersey, by a New York City agent named Don Davis. They were booked for a weekend at an obscure New York City night club called the Peppermint Lounge which was located on West 45th Street. What was to be a weekend stand escalated into a 13-month run!
Their initial appearance at the club found actress Merle Oberon and Prince Serge Oblinski dancing the night away at the Peppermint Lounge. This being in print the next morning by columnists Earl Wilson and Cholly Knickerbocker, it took barricades and mounted police to keep the crowds in line, which had backed up to Broadway, the next night!
For several months, the craze would continue at the Lounge. Celebrity visitors continued to pour in and included Judy Garland, John Wayne, Jackie "Ted" Kennedy, Nat "King" Cole, Shirley MacLaine, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Liberace, to name only a few!
Less than one year later, a trio of pretty young singers called The Ronettes came and danced with the Starliters one evening. During their first visit to New York three years later, The Beatles even checked out the Lounge!!
Capitol Records and Atlantic Records approached the group for a contract, but Joey opted to go with Roulette Records which promised to record them "live" at the Peppermint Lounge and to market a record immediately, as well as to sort out all the other conflicting contracts signed by the group.
Dee, Brigati and the group began working with Roulette producer Henry Glover on new compositions. The first collaboration was "Peppermint Twist", which was released by Roulette in November, 1961, and it took off immediately for the top of the charts. A few weeks later, the group was recorded "live" at the Peppermint Lounge and Roulette rushed-released an LP from the recordings entitled "Doin' The Twist At The Peppermint Lounge". The album became a goldmine for not only Roulette, but for the band. It followed the "Peppermint Twist"single straight to top of the charts, and stayed on the charts for most of 1962.
The best-selling album and the notoriety of the Peppermint Lounge made Joey Dee & the Starliters big news. They were offered a movie contract by Paramount Pictures for which Joey wrote some new songs with Henry Glover, and rerecorded some of his live tunes from the album in the studio also. Three new songs were written: "Hey, Let's Twist", the title song of the movie, "Roly Poly", and a tune sung by Dave Brigati, "Joey's Blues". The soundtrack album also featured JoAnn Campbell, Teddy Randazzo and Kay Armen.
The group's second single was a full-length, unedited "Hey, Let's Twist" backed by "Roly Poly" with added background vocals by The Starliters. Both the single and soundtrack LP entered the charts in February 1962. Unfortunately, both fell short of the massive popularity of "Peppermint Twist" and the first "live" album.
Roulette decided to give the live album an extra boost by editing the lengthy "Shout" from that album into a two-part single. They promoted it to the hilt. It sold steadily and made its way to #6 in Billboard, the one and only time anyone's recording of "Shout" broke into the Top 10.
By June 1962, The Peppermint Lounge opened a second club in Miami, Florida, where a new "live" album of Joey Dee and The Starliters was recorded to celebrate the occasion. With one of the longest LP titles to ever hit the charts, the new "live" album was titled "Back At The Peppermint Lounge Twistin' With Joey Dee & The Starliters".
Roulette continued to flood the market with Joey Dee product. The group's first full studio album, "All The World's Twistin' With Joey Dee & The Starliters", was also released. "Everytime (I Think About You)", a single in two parts, not included on either LP, was also released.
Joey Dee performed in a second motion picture, this time for Columbia Pictures. The picture was originally titled "Vive Le Twist". As it was filmed in France, it was renamed "Two Tickets To Paris". The first song released from the film was "Everytime". The soundtrack also featured more new Dee-Glover originals.
A very special song, "What Kind Of Love Is This", written by Johnny Nash, put Joey Dee back in the Top 20. The song showcased a completely different, ballad sound. Original Starliter Rogers Freeman replaced Larry Vernieri while David Brigati's younger brother, Eddie, added background vocals. The song, issued as a single, reached the #1 position in many parts of the country. It was this new sound for Joey Dee that pointed his career in a new direction -- a direction without The Starliters.
Joey Dee and The Starliters set out on their second European tour in November 1963. Their opening act in Europe: The Beatles! During that same month, another song written by Johnny Nash, "I Lost My Baby", was released with billing going to Joey Dee alone. An album released in December made it official. The solo album, "Joey Dee", included "I Lost My Baby", "Keep Your Mind On What You're Doing" as well as two other Nash originals.
Two songs were recorded in December 1962 before the album's release at one last Starliters session: "Baby You're Driving Me Crazy", a new Dee-Glover original with a rinky-dink rhythm, and another Johnny Nash tune, as good as its predecessors: "Help Me Pick Up The Pieces". These formed the last "new" Joey Dee & The Starliters singles for Roulette. Unfortunately, airplay was split between the sides and, as a result, neither really broke through.
Roulette seemed unsure of the future of Dee and The Starliters as they went into 1963. In yet another marketing coup, the label pulled "Hot Pastrami With Mashed Potatoes" from the successful "Doin' The Twist..." album and released it as a two-part single which made the Top 40. With the departure of The Starliters, something new was needed. That turned out to be the three girls who danced with Joey at the Peppermint Lounge: Veronica and Estelle Bennett, and Nedra Talley, also known as The Ronettes!
Dee recruited The Ronettes for his next sessions in May and June of 1963. Joey recorded eight songs with The Ronettes as well as four instrumentals with a new band. "Dance, Dance, Dance" a single and an LP, were released in July 1963. Roulette next released "Ya Ya" and "Fanny Mae" from the "Doin' The Twist..." LP. In Europe, the single would garner the group the coveted Luxembourg Award. "Getting Nearer" and "Down By The Riverside", two new recordings with The Ronettes, were used for another single release. While Joey Dee did not record in 1964, he toured often with various "Starliters" including Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish and Dave Brigati's brother, Eddie, three-fourths of the original Young Rascals.
Other line-ups included drummer, Jimmy Mayes, singer Tommy Davis, guitarist Jimmy James (also known as Maurice James and eventually as Jimi Hendrix), and Charles Neville (The Neville Brothers). In 1965, two recording sessions produced the "Cry A Little Sometime" single.
Dee was finished with Roulette by 1966 and signed with Jubilee Records. Joey Dee's debut release on Jubilee Records in May 1966 was "Feel Good About It". An album released at the end of the 1966, "Hitsville", featured cover versions of then-recent hits, as well as his own current single release, "It's Got You". A few years later after a reconciliation with the original Starliters, Joey wrote a song with Dave Brigati and Larry Vernieri entitled "How Can I Forget", which was issued on his own Caneil Records label as by Joey Dee and The New Starliters.
In 1970, Joey tried again with "Roses And Candy Kisses" on the Tonsil label. In 1972, Joey formed the group Hawk and, on the Sunburst label, released "Wasn't It A Heavy Summer". In the mid-1970's, an album entitled "Joey Dee, Volume 1" was released on Mohawk.
In the mid-1980's, Joey started THE FOUNDATION FOR THE LOVE OF ROCK N' ROLL in Seminole, Florida, now known as THE NATIONAL MUSIC FOUNDATION. Joey continues to tour regularly around the U.S. and Canada.
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